“The Doctor Can See You Now”

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-By John Boley

Independent Practitioner Network Pty Limited (IPN) was one of the originators of the concept of corporate general practice within Australia. Its background lies in a select set of medical centres known as Foundation Healthcare which was established in 1999. This was renamed as IPN three years later and listed on the ASX, in turn acquiring Endeavour Healthcare and Gemini Medical Services (which itself resulted in Kinetic Health, the merger of Gemini with Prime Health Group, that calls itself “a national network of wholly owned medical clinics, a vast array of occupational health services, and the expertise and capacity to deliver in remote as well as metropolitan locations”). Prime Health Group is nowadays also a part of IPN.

By 2011, according to IPN’s own published figures on its website, the network consisted of “over 190 modern, multidisciplinary medical centres located around Australia which facilitate over six million consultations per year. We are now the trusted business partner of over 1,500 dedicated General Practitioners, and employ over 2,500 healthcare professionals.”

With the aim of improving the healthcare experience for the community by “running quality medical centres for independent General Practitioners,” the company says it “works in partnership with doctors to provide ethical, accessible community based healthcare services,” ensuring that general practitioners are able to retain their clinical independence while streamlining many of the operations of a practice that are not customer-facing. Services such as financing and accounting, quality management, risk assessment and management, HR, property management and business development advice, as well of course as management of the day-to-day running of a practice, are part of the IPN portfolio of services to GP practices.

Since August 2004, IPN has been run as a subsidiary of Sonic Healthcare Ltd, which says it is “an international medical diagnostics company, offering extensive laboratory medicine/pathology and radiology services to the medical community. Our company is structured as a decentralised federation of medically-led diagnostic practices, with our head office located in Sydney.” Sonic has around 25,000 employees worldwide in countries including New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland and the US. It is a very big player in medicine – IPN calls it “the third largest diagnostic service provider in the world, and the largest in Australia.”

In operational terms, IPN looks after the non-medical aspects of running a practice with the intention that the doctors are able to spend more of their valuable time doing what they know best – medicine. All aspects of running a practice, including a multidisciplinary one (most of IPN’s practices incorporate services such as Pharmacy, Pathology collection, Physiotherapy and other Allied Health services. Generally, IPN offers “general practice management, skin health diagnostic, and image cosmetics services,” according to Bloomberg) are covered, says IPN, “from the day-to-day processes that ensure service quality and efficiency, to the overarching policies that underpin best practice procedures across the IPN network. Our highly experienced Operations Teams manage individual Centre operations. IPN partner Doctors benefit from local, personalised service whilst also receiving the wider support of IPN’s national network.”

IPN achieves a balance on behalf of its partner general practitioners by removing “the burden of personal risk associated with running a medical practice,” while upholding doctors’ clinical independence. In taking on that risk, “IPN has built a system of quality controls to minimise the financial risk and legal liability involved in running a medical centre. This includes allocation of significant resources aimed at ensuring the health and safety of IPN people in the workplace.”

IPN’s chief executive officer is Dr Malcolm Parmenter. According to the company’s own website, “prior to being appointed CEO of IPN, Dr Parmenter consulted from the Mosman 393 practice in Sydney, NSW, one of IPN’s largest privately billing multidisciplinary practices. Dr Parmenter originally purchased the Mosman 393 practice in 1994 when it was a struggling medical centre with only four full time equivalent doctors. By 2000, Dr Parmenter had successfully turned the medical centre into a highly profitable practice before selling it to Endeavour Healthcare Limited. IPN subsequently purchased the Endeavour medical centre business in 2004. Dr Parmenter was appointed as CEO of IPN on 9 January 2006.”

IPN summarises its activities thus: “At IPN, we recognise the professional individuality of each GP and understand that our Medical Centres whilst part of the larger IPN network, occupy a unique position in their local community and cater to differing patient needs.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

January 18, 2019, 3:26 AM AEDT